Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tell me your pet stories!

By Sandra Parshall

Tell me your pet stories today and you’ll have a chance to win a hardcover copy of my new book, Under the Dog Star – plus the right to name an animal in a future novel.

Under the Dog Star is a mystery, first and foremost, but it’s also about veterinarian Rachel Goddard’s determination to rescue abandoned and mistreated dogs and give them the better life they deserve. Rachel doesn’t resemble her creator in many ways, but she gets her passion for protecting animals directly from me. I’ve spent many years of my life with wonderful, loving pets that other people didn’t want or wouldn’t care for properly.

On two different occasions when I was much younger, I swiped kittens from people who were neglecting them so seriously that I feared for their lives. I kept one. I gave the other – a tiny ball of white fur that was forced to sleep outside, regardless of the weather – to a friend’s mother, who named her Mary and loved her dearly for the rest of her pampered life. (Mary’s story, slightly altered, is mentioned in my book Broken Places.)

My husband and I have had several cats that came to us because their original owners didn’t want them. Sam, a beautiful blond tabby, was a neighborhood cat who visited me when I worked in my garden. I never knew who he belonged to. Then came a day when he wouldn’t leave and was obviously hungry. We couldn’t locate his owners, and we concluded they had moved and left him behind. Sammy became ours, and we cherished him.

Frank was immediately recognizable as a stray or abandoned cat. Despite prodigious hunting skills, he was so thin I could see the outlines of his ribs, and he had bald patches in his dull coat. One ear had been almost completely torn off, probably in a fight with another roaming cat. Frank had once had a home – he wore an old flea collar – but he’d been on his own for a long time and might not survive another winter. I began feeding him. He wanted the food but was so wary of people that it took a couple of months to persuade him to let me touch him lightly and briefly. After trust was established, Frank became our cat. I cut off that old flea collar, we had him neutered, he put on weight and his blotchy black and white fur grew thick and shiny. He was never a beauty, but his joy in belonging somewhere at last gave him a proud demeanor that would charm anyone. Frank died many years ago, but he lives on as Rachel’s one-eared, squawky-voiced cat in my books.

We acquired our wonderful Simon when the young woman who had him discovered that her live-in boyfriend couldn’t stand the noise and demands of a lonely, frightened kitten who had just been separated from his mother and litter mates. He weighed about two pounds at the time, but he took charge of us immediately, letting us know he intended to sleep on our bed, not in a cat bed on the floor. Simon and I had the same birthday, and of all our cats he was my truest soul mate. We lost him on 2006, when he was almost 18.

Simon had grown up with Nicholas, our first Abyssinian, and when Nicky died we wanted to bring kittens into the house to help Simon – and us – endure the loss. We wanted another Aby, but we also wanted to give a home to a kitten that desperately needed one. Before Gabriel, a ruddy Abyssinian like Nicky, was old enough for us to take him from the breeder’s home, we found Emma through the Feline Foundation of Greater Washington. 

Emma had been abandoned as a tiny kitten at a truck stop in West Virginia. It was pure luck that the son of a man who does cat rescues happened to spot her running around, terrified, under the wheels of the enormous trucks. He snatched her up and delivered her to his father, who kept her long enough to make sure she was healthy, then drove her all the way to Northern Virginia, where she would have a better chance of finding a home. Emma is 10 years old now, still bossing Gabriel around, still pretty much running our household.

Have you adopted a homeless dog or cat? Tell me your story and you’ll have a chance to win a free copy of Under the Dog Star and name an animal in a future book. 
Find and support a no-kill animal shelter in your area.


Meredith Cole said...

I'm a sucker for pet rescues, Sandy... Loved hearing about your animal family and how they came into your lives.

Our family dog when I was a kid, Odey, was a stray who wandered onto our farm. She was terrified of lightning, and would cower anytime anyone picked up a stick (broom/hoe, etc.) so we think she might have been beaten by her former owner.

Our cat Beavis came to us with Creepers (both black tuxedo cats). They were pals/cage mates at a shelter in New York and were housed in a vet's office. They've both been loving, gentle cats and we've never regretted missing their kitten years (they were 9 months and a year and half when we adopted them). We're still mourning Creepers who we lost over a year ago, and thinking about getting Beavis some company.

Sheila Connolly said...

Never a stray, but most of our cats have been shelter cats. Our most recent pair came from the shelter in the nearest small city, and it was an adventure just to find it, tucked away behind a half-abandoned industrial area. This was just as the economy took a nosedive, and they had more cats than space--those who were civilized roamed free within the cat room--because people who couldn't afford to feed pets were abandoning them.

We ended up with two orange-and-white siblings, who had been born in a recently-vacated apartment. Despite the rocky start, they are the most trusting and affectionate cats I've ever known, with all humans and with each other. It's like they don't know evil exists in the universe.

Carolyn J. Rose said...

We adopted Bubba (parts Yorkie, part mini Schnauzer)from the Southwest Washington Humane Society in November of 2000 when she was featured as the pet of the week. Her elderly owner had died and the family didn't want her. Mike was hesitant about having a little dog, especially one with a pink bow in her hair named Belle. I agreed that the bow had to go and that he could rename her, but suggested we keep the B sound at the start of a new name. He immediately came up with Bruiser and we compromised on Bubba. She grew into the name, becoming feisty and taking the role of alpha dog when we inherited my father's dachshund/Labrador mix, Dudley. You can read about both dogs on our website,

Sandra Parshall said...

I love these stories! Keep them coming.

Shelter adoptions are definitely rescues, since the majority of shelters are the equivalent of death row, with the inmates waiting for the reprieve of adoption to save them from being euthanized. Millions of dogs, cats, and other animals are put to death in shelters every year.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Like you, we've been blessed with many wonderful animal friends--dogs & cats. Some people take animals out to the country and dump them – I’ve never known whether they think country residents can always take in another dog or cat, or that former housepets can somehow fend for themselves in the wild. But two of those found their way to us, and led long happy lives that gave us much joy. Alfre was a 6 month old puppy, a fluffy mix of Golden Retriever and Samoyed, with bloody paws and a shrunken tummy. I knew feeding her meant keeping her, and we already had two border collies, who became her sisters. She loved to run–I clocked her once at 25 mph–and we hiked many miles together. She was a clown who found my now-favorite huckleberry patch and turned her creamy white fur purple.

Alfre often curled up with Autumn the Cat, a yellow tabby we thought was pregnant when she showed up but the kittens never came. (“Healthy cat,” the vet said. “Just fat.”) She was with us another 15 years. I told her story, with an appearance by Alfre, in A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers: the Queen of the Couch, she snuck out late one summer evening and headed for the woods, where she scared the bejeebies out of some wild thing who went after her and got sent flying instead.

We inherited our current guy, a 7 y.o. Burmese, when an elderly friend died.

Sue Farrell said...

About 7 years ago we lost our cat to cancer and old age so I headed to the shelter to find a cat so I wouldn't be so sad. I brought home a beautiful male named Malachi. He seemed just perfect to me and had been cuddling with me at the shelter. When I got him home he turned into a mad man even when I had him in a separate room from our 2 dogs. My husband told me I had to take him back because he was mean---I said just give him time to get used to everybody that he was just scared. I begged my husband to let me keep him for just a week to see if he wouldn't settle down. Seems like that cat understood me---within a couple days he was washing the dogs faces and they thought he was just great!

doc said...

At age 61, I had never had a pet; my wife, however, had grown up with dogs (and missed having one around). So, in 2009, she talked me into adopting a dog from the Alliance for Responsible Pet Ownership in Indianapolis ( ARPO rescues dogs from shelters, from the streets, from bad living environments, and provides them with foster homes until they are permanently adopted.

We "interviewed" a couple of dogs, Lightning McQueen and Menina (Portuguese for "Little Girl," we were told), and Menina was the one. She's a mix, but apparently mostly Dutch Shepherd, and had been in foster care for about 8 months at the time. She had been in a shelter in Anderson, IN, and dropped a litter of pups two days after ARPO got her.

She's 35 pounds, brindle, and a doll. Almost never barks (except when strangers come to the door...and since we Amazon a lot, she does get some opportunity), and lover her Pupperoni sticks.

And now I can't imagine not having a dog around...

Jane Wilson said...

Our dog Buster, now 12, was fostered by a friend. He was found at about 4 weeks old wandering the woods in rural Virginia.
Then a year later we adopted Roxy from the Fluvanna County SPCA. She died in May of a rare canine blood disease, so we're thinking about adopting another dog in the future.
We believe in saving lives, and over the years our dogs have all been rescued dogs.

Katreader said...

I currently have 12 furry family members. I adopted Sam in April from a private rescue organization. He's an 11 year old Siberian Husky mix who had been severely neglected. He had escaped his yard and was running around the city with another dog. When that dog got hit by a car, Sam waited by his body until animal control arrived. His owner no longer wanted him, his ex wife picked him up-but couldn't keep him and turned him to the rescue group. Sam in now settling in quite nicely-for an old guy, he sure keep me moving!

I have 3 cats at the moment. Calumet was born in the barn where I board my horse (Harley, an off track thoroughbred who raced under the name Bad to the Bone). Aleister was found by a co-worker in a university parking lot when I lived in Texas at about 2 months old. I found Seneca by a dumpster at that same university. When she was still there a few days later I brought her home-planning to find a new home for her. She's been with me for about 14 years now!

I also have 8 rats. Five are from a breeder (Harrison, Tyskie, Okocim, Zywiec, & Grodziskie) while 2 are from a small animal rescue-Marlin and Wallace. They were no longer wanted after an "animal husbandry project". I had also adopted 2 of their brothers-but they have since crossed the rainbow bridge.

Sadly I have had many rattie kids cross the rainbow bridge-some from breeders, many from rescue organizations. I've had 2 other cats that have passed-both strays and 2 dogs-one a stray and one adopted from a humane society.

These animals bring such joy and I am so grateful they are part of my life.

Sandra Parshall said...

12 pets! Wow. You'll never be lonely. :-) I once had a pet white rat, and he got along well with the cats. I believe a rat's lifespan is only about two years under the best of circumstances, so you have to be prepared for the loss.

LD Masterson said...

This is the story I told my grandson of how our dog Chance came to be a member of our family. It was the Friday before Mother's Day, twelve years ago. My son (his dad) called early that morning to tell me he had the perfect Mother's Day gift for me. He knew I was thinking about getting a companion for our dog Brandi and he had just the dog - an apparent stray who had followed my daughter-in-law home on her morning jog. I reminded him I was looking for a female puppy. He countered that this adult male was "really cute" and he knew I would love him. I held my ground. He agreed he would find another home for the little guy but he was going out of town for the weekend and could I help out by taking the dog until he got back? I don't remember agreeing to this but somehow there he was. Our weekend guest, who arrived on Friday and never left.

When I finished the story, my grandson said, "So Chance just stayed with you for a twelve year weekend."

I guess that's what it was.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Carolyn, love how you changed Belle's name to Bubba! Sounds perfect for her!

Diane said...

So many over the years. From pounds, rescue groups, off the streets (or yards). Or from my grown daughter who had rescued them herself. Pepper from the Fairfax County, VA, animal shelter in the early 90's. She was black & tan, the size of an English setter, with triangular floppy ears and a love of pointing at squirrels. I had her for 15 wonderful years. Tigger, a Bischon mix adopted by a rescue group in Sun City, AZ, from wandering around a poor area as a small puppy. Adopted for/by my Mom, but I ended up with him for good when she decided he wasn't getting the exercise he deserved. But he was used to my household. Tequila, a golden/aussie mix at 9 wks of age from someone 'helping a neighbor' in front of a Walmart. Told him to have his 'neighbor' get his dog fixed. Took him because I was afraid he'd be ignored in the back of some yard or dumped in the desert when his 'cuteness' wore off. Lady, a shy Siamese mix, white with brown ears, tail and heart on her side. My olest found her wandering around Manassas. Our vet said she was 1-2 yrs old at the time. She was timid around all other animals, even by our parakeet. But very sweet. She lived to be 21-22 yrs old. Emily, a gray declawed tabby, adopted by my youngest and her husband at the age of 5. My daughter's other cat never liked her, so I took her. She fit in just fine in my household. Then Sniffy, my daughter's beagle, adopted from the pound outside of Ft Knox, KY. He had been found, was about a yr old at the time. Afraid of lightening and cows at the site of a back scratcher. So that tells me he was gun shy, wouldn't hunt, was beaten then dumped. He is a love and likes being able to see what is going on outside. Still have him. Frankie, a about 10 yr old Aussie who had been found wandering. She was fostered by and adopted from Watermelon Ranch near Albequerque. Sweetest dog ever, very accepting and loving. Only had her for a very short while. Thanks to Pfizer and their nifty new periodontal shot, new at the time and given to her at her teeth cleaning. That was April/May 2007. She died that October. Thank you Pfizer. For nothing!

Two years ago I adopted Jenny, about 9 at the time, from Orange County Rescue group at Petsmart, so Sniffy would have company when I had to go out and leave him at home. She was the only smallish dog there at the time. Love big dogs, but only have room for smaller ones now. At a guess, she is a whippet, and was scared as all get out. Had been owned by one family, then given up at this late age. Then adopted, and dumped at the pound within a week. Took time, but she is finally trusting now.

Still love them all, those here and those who have moved on. Wouldn't trade a moment I've had with them for anything.

And - if you're wondering - I have had 4 dogs and 2 cats at the same time, then 5 dogs and 1 cat (Frankie came, Lady had died). With love and patience, it worked.

Susan said...

Maddie and her two sisters were found thrown away along the side of the road outside Sandusky, Ohio. Based on her sister's curly hair and the wavy coat of the others, the shelter decided she might be a labradoodle.

However, she grew up to be a setter mix (by looks and DNA), who is an energetic, loving girl who loves chasing every moving thing around my fenced-in yard. My 11-year-old standard poodle loves her new companion although she'll watch while Maddie runs (and runs and runs).

WPAdmirer said...

I adopted Rosie from a rescue that had taken in a bunch of Katrina animals.

Rosie was having to be kept isolated because she'd developed an antagonistic relationship with a rescued husky. (The husky bit her in the face, and she had decided the husky must suffer for that!)

My husband, Pat, is disabled and wasn't sure he could deal with a dog, but Rosie was nearly 9 years old and very mellow with people.

So we took her in. She is the perfect dog for us. She's quiet, likes a daily walk, and never barks unless she hears someone come up to the house. She so rarely barks, it surprises us when she does!

We've become giant advocates of the adoption of older dogs after our experience with Rosie! Senior dogs rule!

William S. Shepard said...

We had had over the years many purebred cats, Siamese and Himalayans. When the last died, we went to the local Humane Society. To my surprise, it wasn't grim at all. A little tiger kitten, let out of an enclosure, rushed towards me and wrapped himself around my arm. "He had been thrown out of a car," I was told. We were bonding, when the Humane Society lady added, "He's missing a tooth." "So am I!" I replied. And that is how we got Rajah, now a healthy and boisterous 14 pound short hair. And of course Rani, mostly fluff, and so long that she must be part Maine Coon Cat!

Anonymous said...

I had trouble thinking of which of our dear rescues I should write of but it should be Lucky since his book is due to be written and he passed away 10 years ago on Sept. 18th. He was the kitten who came in a mailbox. He had been stuffed in a nearby mailbox by some children. When my husband asked them what they had stuffed in the mailbox, before they could reply, Lucky said, "MEOW!" And he was ours ever after. And didn't like children for anything or have anything to do with any children after that, not a bad trait for a cat to have. If he was having an outdoor run and saw any he'd hide behind the garbage can. We first thought we didn't have anything to feed a kitten and then realized that milk would do the trick. He was beautiful and sweet and is still much missed.

Sandra Parshall said...

Older animals that have lost their previous homes (like our Frank) are often wonderful pets, so appreciative of the people who have given them another chance. I feel so sad for any pet that is abandoned or taken to a shelter after spending its whole life in one home. He must wonder what he did to be treated that way.

Carola said...

Trillian was found wandering without collar, unspayed, covered with fleas, her coat a horrible mess. She'd obviously had a litter (?puppy mill?). At the county shelter, she was so scared, they didn't give her shots right away, as they usually do, so she was in the quarantine part of the "jail." Luckily, it was separated only by a cord across the aisle. I was able to speak to her. She backed off into her outdoor space, but I just went on talking and she came out and sat down to listen. I told them I was interested in fostering her and would come back to see her next day.
When I returned, she'd had her shots so they let me visit with her in their big outdoor space. I sat on the ground talking quietly. At first she just wandered around sniffing, but then she came close and let me touch her. The next day, she let me brush her. That's when I decided. They spayed her and put in a chip, and the day after that I went to fetch her.
That's when I discovered she was absolutely terrified of getting into the car. It took me pulling and the shelter boss, a big burly guy, pushing to get her in! But she just resisted, didn't snarl or try to bite.
A month of bribes (and borrowing another dog who loved cars) got her to the point of getting in willingly. Now she's upset when I leave her behind.
She's turned into a beautiful, loving, and very intelligent companion. After two years, at last she's even comfortable around men!

Barb Goffman said...

You've probably already heard this story, Sandy. I adopted Scout from the wonderful SPCA of Northern Virginity. He had been found abandoned as a puppy, about eight weeks old, trying to jump into a woman's car in a bank parking lot. The bank was next door to a veterinary office, so I gather whoever decided they didn't want Scout dumped him outside the vet assuming they'd find him and get him a new home. Well the nice lady brought him to that vet, who called the SPCA, who agreed to take him in. They kept him and fully trained him for about four months before they found him a family. That should have been his forever family, but it wasn't.

Scout lived with that family for five years before they gave him back like he was nothing because they had kids who were too rowdy with him. He must have been so sad and confused. He went back to the wonderful woman at the SPCA who raised him, and he lived with her for about a year until I saw his photo on the Internet. It was love at first sight. Later this month we'll celebrate the fifth anniversary of Scout coming to live with me. He's the greatest gift in my life, and I am honored to be the person providing his actual forever home.

Anonymous said...

I hope, some day, to actually have room in our house to go adopt an animal from one of the usual routes. But we live in the country, and always have abandoned cats to take in -- officially 7 at the moment. Busy Lizzie, the little orange bobtail who was stone deaf and being mistreated by some kids, and came to our door with another group of kids -- covered in fleas and stuffed with worms, is now our alpha cat. She learned to be a proper cat and follow the catly routines by following Max, the cat half a step ahead of the housing police, the cat who became notorious as the Texas Hotel Wall Inspector, in Lubbock. He never could resist a good hole in the wall, and the carpenters had left a wonderful cat hole in the plumbing chase.

Then there was The Stinker, found as a small kitten up a tree in a thunderstorm. He couldn't figure out how to get down, and I couldn't reach him, so I used a slingshot to pitch balls of canned cat food to him. Local housepainters rescued him. He never did learn to get down from trees. But every Tuesday night, he guarded our trash can from the horrible men who stole our good garbage every Wednesday morning.

Jinx and Lucy, kittens from a cat abandoned at an interstate rest stop. I was able to rehome the mother cat, but I wasn't about to adopt black kittens at Halloween, so they remained with us the rest of their lives.

The incorrigible Mr. Corrigan, yellow kitten extraordinaire, adopted from a crate of kittens by the Safeway front door; he, and about 20 other feral kittens had been rescued by a heavy equipment operator from land being cleared for a housing project, and the equipment operator took them home, bottle fed some of them, and adopted them out. He's epileptic, and has the one of the biggest personalities of any cat I've ever met.

Calliope Jane, the feral tortie that was killing birds in a co-workers backyard, and now is a great believer in heated mattress pads and crunchy cat food in the bowl. Pippin, the grey tabby, strolling down the highway, 8 weeks old.

And last, but not least, Buddy, the feral my mom had been feeding at our house -- mom always said she looked like a sweet cat, missing half an ear. I could never get closer than about 10 feet. When we left for mom's funeral, I arranged for a neighbor kid to feed our ferals; when we got back home, Buddy and a long haired black cat that had obviously been thrown from a vehicle were sitting on our dining room table, having come in through the cat flap. Buddy and Fuzzy have both learned to trust people now, I'm happy to say, and are pretty good cats, even if Fuzzy wants to play the venetian blind xylophone at o'dark thirty.

Wonder who will be next? Caesar, my mom's service dog, hopes it won't be one that doesn't like dogs... he claims his nose has been permanently dented by cat thwaps.

Sandra Parshall said...

I love all these stories so much that I decided to draw two winners instead of one, and they are Carolyn J. Rose and Lucky's owner, Anonymous. Please send your mailing addresses (and your real name, Anon!) to:

Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories, and bless you for being there when the animals needed you. (Barb G., Scout is already a character in the book I'm writing now.)

Anonymous said...

Sandra, that was a wonderful piece about your pets. And the photos are just dear!!
I wrote about the life and passing of my beloved Miss Priss on my August 7 blog. You would enjoy it -
Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Anonymous said...

My favorite cat was a half-Siamese named Chloe. Unfortunately I have developed a severe allergy to cats and now miss their companionship.

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